Greetings again from the darkness. The “foodie” fad has been in full swing for a few years now, resulting in a new generation of celebrity chefs … plus we each have that friend who believes top dollar and “hot” restaurants are the key to an enjoyable meal. First time director (and many times Producer) Erika Frankel provides a dose of history and authenticity (rather than Reality TV) as she turns her camera on Chef Georges Perrier and his Le Bec-Fin restaurant, an iconic Philadelphia dining locale for forty years.
In 2010, Chef Georges announced he would be closing the restaurant, and Ms. Frankel decided to take her camera into the kitchen to document the end of an era. Georges was a pioneer of French chefs coming to the United States and his four decade run is incredibly rare and quite a legacy. Early in the film, Georges tells us “A chef doesn’t have a normal life”, and the film documents the truth in this proclamation. His “20 hour workdays” cost him any shot at a family life, and though his daughter acknowledges as much, her comments are those of someone who has accepted that her father must cook in the way that an artist must paint. This level of food preparation is truly an art, and Georges is described as the world’s greatest saucier … the foundation of French cuisine.
Other films and documentaries have taken us into kitchens, but it’s Georges’ personality and commitment to “perfection” that add a different spin here. Sure, he is extremely vocal … at times bombastic … but it’s all related to his love of cooking. The stress and pressures in the kitchen of what has been called the finest restaurant in the country are at times almost unbearable, but the film helps us understand the staff dynamics and motivation.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the relationship between Georges and the young chef he is mentoring, Nicholas Elmi. Georges alternates between being demanding and appreciative. There is a touching scene where Georges invites Nick to share a meal and ballgame with him … in this world, it’s the ultimate display of love. Director Frankel follows the career path of Elmi, and it makes for a fascinating end to the film and fitting tribute to Georges.